A “Good Enough” Choice: Bounded Rationality in Migration Destination Choice

Zuzanna Brunarska


The study intends to fill a gap in the literature on migration destination choice, which focuses on the outcome of a decision process, while largely neglects the very process of arriving at an outcome. Using qualitative material collected during 150 face-to-face interviews with Polish migrants to four EU countries and Australia, this article develops a general typology of decision makers involved in choices of migrant destinations. It applies the concept of bounded rationality to analyse the ways in which these migrants have chosen their host locations and, focusing on their rationality, explores manifestations of its boundedness. It also discusses the issue of information search by destination choice, showing that under relatively low perceived risks associated with migration, the process of knowledge building tends to be based on experience rather than on in-depth research.

Słowa kluczowe: migration, destination choice, process, bounded rationality, typology

Adams J. (2004), ‘This is not where I belong!’ The emotional, ongoing, and collective aspects of couples’ decision making about where to live, “Journal of Comparative Family Studies”, Vol. 35, Issue 3, pp. 459–484.

Baker R. (1982), Place utility fields, “Geographical Analysis”, Vol. 14, Issue 1, pp. 10–28.

Baláž V., Bačová V., Šriniar P. (2014), Experience and information search patterns in complex decision making, “Studia Psychologica”, Vol. 56, Issue 1, pp. 3–20.

Baláž V., Williams A., Fifeková E. (2016), Migration decision making as complex choice. Eliciting decision weights under conditions of imperfect and complex information through experimental methods. “Population, Space and Place”, Vol. 22, Issue 1, pp. 36–53.

Benson M., O’Reilly K. (2009), Migration and the search for a better way of life: a critical exploration of lifestyle migration, “Sociological Review”, Vol. 57, Issue 4, pp. 608–625.

Boudon R. (2008), Subjective rationality and the explanation of social behaviour, in: Egidi M., Marris R. (Eds.), Economics, bounded rationality and the cognitive revolution, Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 123–147.

Brown L., Moore E. (1970), The intra-urban migration process: a perspective, “Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography”, Vol. 52, Issue 1, pp. 1–13.

Ciobanu R. (2015), Multiple migration flows of Romanians, “Mobilities”, Vol. 10, Issue 3, pp. 466–485.

CSO (2017), Information on the scale and directions of emigration from Poland in 2004–2016. [in Polish], Central Statistical Office, http://stat.gov.pl/obszary-tematyczne/ludnosc/migracje-zagraniczne-ludnosci/informacja-o-rozmiarach-i-kierunkach-emigracji-z-polski-wlatach-20042016,2,10.html [Accessed: 29.09.2018].

van Dalen H., Henkens K. (2013), Explaining emigration intentions and behaviour in the Netherlands, 2005–10, “Population Studies”, Vol. 67, Issue 2, pp. 225–241.

DaVanzo J. (1981), Repeat migration, information cost, and location specific human capital, “Population and Environment”, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 45–73.

Decrop A., Snelders, D. (2005), A grounded typology of vacation decision-making, “Tourism Management”, Vol. 26, pp. 121–132.

DeJong G., Gardner R. (Eds.) (1981), Migration decision making. Multidisciplinary approaches to microlevel studies in developed and developing countries, New York: Pergamon Press.

Eade J., Drinkwater S., Garapich, M. (2007), Class and ethnicity – Polish migrants in London. Research Report for the RES-000-22-1294 ESRC Project. ESRC.

Engbersen G. (2012), Migration transitions in an era of liquid migration. Reflections on Fassmann and Reeger, in: Okólski M. (Ed.), European immigrations. trends, structures and policy implications, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 91–105.

Engbersen G., Snel E. (2013), Liquid migration. Dynamic and fluid patterns of post-accession migration flows, in: Glorius B., Grabowska-Lusinska I., Kuvik A. (Eds.), Mobility in transition. Migration patterns after EU enlargement, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 21–40.

Engbersen G., Leerkes A., Grabowska-Lusinska I., Snel E., Burgers J. (2013), On the differential attachments of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe: a typology of labour migration, “Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies”, Vol. 39, Issue 6, pp. 959–981.

Gigerenzer G., Goldstein D. (1996), Reasoning the fast and frugal way: models of bounded rationality, “Psychological Review”, Vol. 103, Issue 4, pp. 650–669.

Gigerenzer G., Goldstein D. (2011), The recognition heuristic: a decade of research, “Judgment and Decision Making”, Vol. 6, Issue 1, pp. 100–121.

Glaser B., Strauss A. (1967), The discovery of grounded theory. Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine.

Goldstein D., Gigerenzer G. (1999), The recognition heuristic. How ignorance makes us smart, in: Gigerenzer G., Todd P., ABC Research Group (Eds.), Simple heuristics that make us smart, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 37–58.

Grabowska-Lusińska I., Okólski M. (2009), Emigracja ostatnia? [Ultimate emigration?], Warsaw: Scholar.

Kaczmarczyk P. (2006), Współczesne migracje zagraniczne Polaków – skala, struktura oraz potencjalne skutki dla rynku pracy [Contemporary international migration of Poles – the scale, structure and potential consequences for the labour market], Warsaw: FISE.

Katz E., Stark O. (1986), Labor migration and risk aversion in less developed countries, “Journal of Labor Economics”, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 134–149.

Kelley C. (2013), Accidental immigrants and the search for home: women, cultural identity, and community, Temple University Press.

Kennan J., Walker J. (2013), Modeling individual migration decisions, in: Constant A., Zimmermann K. (Eds.), International handbook on the economics of migration, Cheltenham, Northampton: Edward Elgar, pp. 39–54.

Klabunde A., Willekens F. (2016), Decision-making in agent-based models of migration: state of the art and challenges, “European Journal of Population”, Vol. 32, pp. 73–97.

Klekowski von Koppenfels A. (2014), The accidental migrant, in: Klekowski von Koppenfels A., Migrants or expatriates?, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 43–74.

Lauby J., Stark O. (1988), Individual migration as a family strategy: young women in the Philippines, “Population Studies”, Vol. 42, Issue 3, pp. 473–486.

Martiniello M., Rea A. (2014), The concept of migratory careers: Elements for a new theoretical perspective of contemporary human mobility, “Current Sociology”, Vol. 62, Issue 7, pp. 1079–1096.

Morawska E. (2018), Qualitative migration research: viable goals, open-ended questions, and multidimensional answers, in: Zapata-Barrero R., Yalaz E. (Eds.), Qualitative research in European migration studies, Springer Open, pp. 113–131.

O’Reilly K., Benson M. (2009), Lifestyle migration: escaping to the good life?, in: O’Reilly K., Benson M. (Eds.), Lifestyle migrations: expectations, aspirations and experiences. Ashgate, pp. 1–13.

Pellegrini P., Fotheringham A. (2002), Modelling spatial choice: a review and synthesis in a migration context, “Progress in Human Geography”, Vol. 26, Issue 4, pp. 487–510.

Roseman C. (1983). A framework for the study of migration destination selection, “Population and Environment”, Vol. 6, Issue 3, pp. 151–165.

Salamońska J. (2017), Multiple migration – researching the multiple temporalities and spatialities of migration, “CMR Working Papers” 102/160.

Simon H. (1956), Rational choice and the structure of the environment, “Psychological Review”, Vol. 63, Issue 2, pp. 129–138.

Simon H. (1972), Theories of bounded rationality, in: McGuire C., Radner R. (Eds.), Decision and organization: a volume in honor of Jacob Marschak, Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, pp. 161–176.

Simon H. (1982), Models of bounded rationality, Cambridge: MIT Press.

Simon H. (2000), Bounded rationality in social science: today and tomorrow, “Mind and Society”, Vol. 1, Issue 1, pp. 25–39.

Sirakaya E., Woodside A. (2005), Building and testing theories of decision making by travellers, “Tourism Management”, Vol. 26, pp. 815–832.

Smallman C., Moore K. (2010), Process studies of tourists’ decision-making, “Annals of Tourism Research”, Vol. 37, Issue 2, pp. 397–422.

Stola D. (2012), Kraj bez wyjścia? Migracje z Polski 1949–1989, Warsaw: IPN. Sue C., Riosmena F., LePree J. (2018), The influence of social networks, social capital, and the ethnic community on the U.S. destination choices of Mexican migrant men, “Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies”,  doi:10.1080/1369183X.2018.1447364

Svenson O. (1979), Process descriptions of decision making, “Organizational Behavior and Human Performance”, Vol. 23, pp. 86–112.

Tabor A., Milfont T., Ward C. (2015), International migration decision-making and destination selection among skilled migrants, “Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology”, Vol. 9, Issue 1, pp. 28–41.

Thulin E., Vilhelmson B. (2014), Virtual practices and migration plans: a qualitative study of urban young adults, “Population, Space and Place”, Vol. 20, pp. 389–401.

Tversky A. (1972), Elimination by aspects: a theory of choice, “Psychological Review”, Vol. 79, Issue 4, pp. 281–299.

White A. (2011), The mobility of Polish families in the West of England: translocalism and attitudes to return, “Studia Migracyjne-Przegląd Polonijny”, Vol. 37, Issue 1, pp. 11–32.

Williams A., Baláž V. (2012), Migration, risk, and uncertainty: theoretical perspectives, “Population, Space and Place”, Vol. 18, Issue 2, pp. 167–180.

Wolpert J. (1965), Behavioral aspects of the decision to migrate, “Papers in Regional Science”, Vol. 15, Issue 1, pp. 159–169.